The father of a 15-month-old baby who is in the city at the centre of a deadly viral outbreak says he experienced a roller-coaster of emotions from fear to frustration and relief in the span of about two hours.
Richard Fabic, a Canadian citizen from Mississauga, Ont., was monitoring his daughter Chloe’s journey with her grandparents as they drove to the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in the afternoon on Thursday local time.
“This is so tense,” he said late Wednesday night.
Chloe is a Canadian citizen but her grandparents are permanent residents.
Their flight out of Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, had been delayed about 21 hours.
The flight, a government-chartered plane, was scheduled to lift-off early Thursday morning local time, but Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday crosswinds kept the plane from leaving Hanoi, Vietnam, where it and its crew have been waiting.
He said there are 211 passengers expected on the flight and all had been contacted.
Ottawa is still weighing its options for taking more Canadians out of Wuhan once the first flight has left, Champagne said.
This includes whether it should send a second plane or can secure enough space on flights organized by the U.S. and other allies.
Fabic said he was “constantly refreshing” his email and checking text messages on his phone as he waited for updates from Chloe’s grandparents.
China has all but locked down the city where the new coronavirus was first detected to try to keep it from spreading.
According to the latest figures early Thursday, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases jumped by 3,694 to 28,018, and the death toll rose to 563.
Fabic said his family had a few hiccups on the way through the various checkpoints, although it was an easy drive until they reached the airport.
“Guards have stopped cars at the entrance to the highway towards the airport,” read a message that he got from Chloe’s grandparents.
The Chinese authorities needed a passenger list to cross check that Chloe and her grandparents could indeed go to the airport, he said.
He emailed the authorities in Ottawa who told him that they were working on getting the appropriate papers to the Chinese government.
A reply from Ottawa also said prospective passengers needed a list of documents to get through the checkpoints.
“You may encounter difficulties at the check points en route to the airport,” it said.
Less than 10 minutes later a relieved Fabic forwarded the documents he got from Ottawa to Chloe’s grandparents via email.
“I am the middleman.”
Their car, which had been stopped at a checkpoint outside the airport started “moving slowly” and then their identifications and documents were checked by the Chinese authorities about an hour later.
“Chloe isn’t happy. She’s screaming at max volume,” he said with a laugh.
“Even when she wasn’t walking, when she was in the car seat and the car wasn’t moving, she would start the screaming. She’s a little young for road rage.”
The authorities verified that both Chloe’s grandparents were on the list, he said.
About two hours after Fabic’s daughter and her grandparents left the house, they were at the airport.
“I feel exhausted yet relieved enough that I can catch a couple hours’ sleep before the workday begins.”
— With files from The Associated Press.